Archive for January, 2007

Max Brooks – World War Z (2006)

January 29, 2007

Zombies are the most allegorical of monsters. While mildly frightening in their own right, the true horror of the zombie lies not in the slow, shuffling gait or the yawning, soulless moans, but in what that zombies represent.

In his book, World War Z, Max Brooks establishes an outbreak of the shambling undead as an allegory for all matter of contemporary ills. However, far from being as stilted as that sentence makes it sound, Brooks work manages to be personable and poignant, but never preachy.

The subtitle of this work is “An Oral History of the Zombie War.” Brooks’ usage of fictionalized interviews is a fascinating technique, and keeps the story from dragging along and getting mired in the clichés of the oft-revisited zombie genre.

His interviews manage to push across some very interesting points about the pettiness of humanity, and the horrifying reality of our inability to save ourselves. But far from being a gloomy deconstruction of human nature, Brooks leaves some hope mankind.

Overall, the work is engaging and poignant, and even funny at times, showing that maybe Max inherited some of his father Mel’s comedic chops after all.

–nc

Mary J. Blige – The Breakthrough (2005)

January 29, 2007
In 2006 this singer, songwriter, producer, and actress known as Mary J. Blige had eight Grammy nominations (the most in the year 2006.) The album rightfully called The Breakthrough. So, what is all the hype about the Best R&B Album of 2006? Does she really live up to the title of “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul”?

The song “Be Without You” alone had four nominations. Understandably, it is a song of love and the struggles within that. It is not only a song of that struggle, but more importantly it has the message of dedication to a relationship. Blige gives the clear message that it is not an option. In her words, “I wanna be with you, gotta be with you, need to be with you.” She also pushes the message that love “like this” takes time and is not something to be rushed. Obviously a lot of people connected with this message and the desire for this and in turn are the results of her nominations.

Another notable nomination is the “Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance” for “I Found My Everything”. This song takes the tone back to the roots of the R&B style that Blige has come to know. She also has a definite flow in the album which can be encompassed in the word, “love”. This relationship filled album is definitely a good R&B album, but not a great one.

Blige is a woman who knows how to use her talents. It is an album that can definitely become close to someone’s heart if they connect with it. It does not bring a whole lot of originality though. This is probably why she has a lot of featuring artist in an attempt to bring a spice or a new aspect. Not to say she failed at those attempts, but features are not exactly original even if it is in collaboration with U2.

–jc

Incubus – Light Grenades (2006)

January 29, 2007
It’s unfortunate that the fortunes of Brandon Boyd and company are tied so closely to the name “Incubus,” as that name conjures up images of an angry nu-metal band screeching their angst at neglectful fathers to audiences of cranky adolescents.

Boyd and company have risen above that scene with their latest album, Light Grenades. The music is still on the heavy side, and the tone far from cheerful, but this is no Junior-high bathroom stall scrawled expression of angst and frustration. This album is thirteen songs of well-crafted pop rock about that most ubiquitous of musical topics, relational frustration.

Boyd expresses hope even while venting his frustrations. The spirit of the album is summed up by this chorus from one of the catchier songs on the album, “Diamonds and Coal”: “Love isn’t perfect, even diamonds start as coal. Come on, in spite of this, we’re doing just fine, even diamonds start as coal.”

Light Grenades is an accessible album of solid if unspectacular songs, able to be enjoyed by Incubus fans and lovers of pop-rock in general.

–nc

International Justice Mission at Geneva

January 29, 2007

A little girl sits and stares, her big brown eyes empty and unseeing. No tears fall because she has none left to give. Though not understanding what is happening to her, she knows enough. The bruises and soreness tell stories of months upon months of forced prostitution, of abuse when she does and doesn’t give in. Raped of her innocence, she is left broken.

You’ve heard the stories, you’ve seen the issues, you’ve experienced some of it. AIDS in Africa, forced labor in India, and sex trade in the United States are a few. Topping that off are child porn, genocide, kidnapping, forced migration, and murder of street children. The list is long.

The phrase Human Rights and the word Justice are thrown around. What do they mean? This is what students want to find out. Beginning a chapter of International Justice Mission (IJM) on our campus is one new effort to discover what justice is and how we can help it take place. Students who have a passion for the countless quiet sufferers are crying for justice and seeking God’s heart.

They are coming together in prayer, educating themselves on current Human Rights issues, and taking action by educating others, and raising money to free the many types of slaves around this world. This is the vision. Beginning this semester, IJM is an attempt at learning what it means to truly care for the widows, the orphans, and the beaten. If you are interested in advocating on their behalf, do it.

Human Rights are complicated and justice is a long process but do not let that scare you away. Learn with other students as they wrestle with being faithful in an area that is difficult to understand. Interested? Email smkunes@geneva.edu.

Idiocracy (2006)

January 29, 2007
This is a great film about the “dumbing down” of America from writer/director Mike Judge (Office Space). An average Joe (Luke Wilson) and a Ho (Maya Rudolph) get frozen in a military experiment and are eventually jarred from there slumber to find that it is 2505.

The world is a very different place. So dumb, in fact, that if Lloyd and Harry from Dumb and Dumber strolled in they would be seen as tragic characters for being to rational in their stupidity. Which is what the main characters find when they reemerge after a 500 year gap. They were pretty average when they started the freezing process and now they should be in charge of the government, which they eventually do.

The film ends with a rather interesting and deep comment on the anomie (feelings of social alienation) that come with knowledge in relation to the social world that one lives in. It is not a happily ever after; it is merely survival. It begs the question of whether anything more is possible. I suspect the audience is suppose to answer yes, and then do something about it now. While a funny film, the moral of the story comes across well: go read a book or two and vote intelligently in 2008.

–gpv

The Shins – Wincing the Night Away (2007)

January 29, 2007
Some Shins fans like the Shins. Some like Garden State. Some like both. Wincing the Night Away, while it may disappoint the second group, ought to please just about everyone else. It’s far more mellow than the Albuquerque quartet’s previous two efforts. While lacking an infectious glow-pop number to match New Slang or Kissing the Lipless (with the possible exception of Phantom Limb), it offers a solid album full of melancholy, yet hopeful, numbers. Sea Legs channels The Verve without descending into mimicry, and several of the songs – Girl Sailor in particular – betray a bit of a Decemberists influence.

Wincing the Night Away is The Shins’ first release since 2003, and has much more in common musically with 2001’s Oh, Inverted World than 2003’s Chutes too Narrow. It’s much more musically mature than either, and a bit more adventurous – they seem to have some sort of musical attention deficit, hopping from sub-genre to sub-genre, from Enya to the Eagles to The Flaming Lips. Surprisingly, it works, creating an oeuvre that is more of a pastiche than a mere collection of derivative songs. After four years of silence, the Shins have managed to release an album that should confirm their status as solid – if not always spectacular – pop songcrafters.
–ap

number thirteen

January 22, 2007

it’s all about Africa this week.
also, it’s two sided so make sure you “turn” the page in the pdf.
here’s more info on the well fund.
new culture. ish. mini-site is up and running.
come see Tsotsi this wednesday.
i think the podcast may be dead. anyone care?
leave some feedback.
thanks for caring.

number twelve

January 16, 2007

…and we’re back.
read it.
listen.
watch.
check this out, and tell us what you think.

here’s the podcast.
leave some feedback.
thank you so much.